Monday, February 28, 2011

Recalling Recall

Recall of Democratic State Senators has been a huge part of my life and career. As a result, I investigated the possibility of recalling the Wisconsin Democratic State Senators who eluded the call of the Senate by absconding to Illinois. This results in the Wisconsin Senate lacking quorum to act on Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.

I lived and worked in Lansing, Michigan’s capitol, from 1985 until 2002. In 1983, Senate Minority Leader John Engler led the recall of two Democrat State Senators who voted for their Governor’s hated 38 percent increase in Michigan’s state income tax. Both were replaced by Republicans and John Engler became Majority Leader. After losing to Dave Obey in my native Wisconsin in 1984, I joined the Majority Caucus staff in Lansing in 1985.

For several subsequent elections, the Senate Majority was only two seats so a Republican loss would result in a tie, broken by the Democrat Lieutenant Governor. I was assigned to perform opposition research, policy development, media relations and more pedestrian assignments for the top targeted seats in 1986, 1988 and 2000. All but the most political assignments like doing doors, making vote calls or providing ballot security were expected to be done on state time. Things that were rewarded with my promotion in Michigan would earn me prison time in Wisconsin.

What is the law regarding recall of Wisconsin State Senators? In 1926, we passed Article 12 of Article 13 of the Wisconsin Constitution. It provides for a recall petition anytime after the first year of an elected term. The petition needs at least the signatures of 25 percent of the vote for Governor in the last election. This is a huge hurdle so recall is not taken lightly.

If valid signatures are filed, a recall election happens in six weeks. If there are more than two candidates, there is recall primary. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent in the primary, the candidate wins.

Because I live in liberal Madison, my State Senator is a safe Democrat during normal times. Absconding to Illinois to escape quorum and resulting in the lay-off of state workers means that it is not normal times now.

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